WEDDINGS are often described as “the happiest day” in the life of a bride and groom and for five Brisbane seminarians that same joy was evident in their ordination to the transitional diaconate on November 18.
With “standing room only” in the Holy Spirit Chapel, Banyo, Auxiliary Bishop Brian Finnigan of Brisbane presided among a strong cohort of deans, priests, deacons, other members of the seminary community, and representatives of the wider diocese and beyond.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” an exuberant Deacon Anthony Ekpo said after the Mass.
“My journey to being a priest began in Nigeria 10 years ago and I am giving thanks to God for the opportunity He has given me to minister in the Church.”
Deacon Ekpo’s joy was echoed by fellow newly-ordained transitional deacons Paul Catchlove, Augustine Obi, JohnBosco Ofor and Nigel Sequeira.
This joy is a foretaste of the joy still to come, as the men journey towards ordination to the priesthood.
“The lead-up to the marriage began with the formation and today is the wedding ceremony,” Deacon Sequeira, a former international news cameraman, said.
“I’m really delighted. Brisbane is a lovely place and I felt really welcome when I first arrived here and that hasn’t changed.
“I’m happy to serve the people.”
An almost speechless Deacon Catchlove was so filled with emotion after the Mass he allowed his parents, Wayne and Lyn, to share of their joy.
“I’m really proud and it’s just a beautiful day,” Mr Catchlove said.
“Paul’s worked really hard for this and I’m just so happy for him.”
Mrs Catchlove spoke of the presence of so many saying, “It’s lovely to see so many people here acknowledging these men who have come so far.”
The Catchloves were the only family of the five ordained able to be present as the others have relatives abroad.
Parishioners from across the deacons’ various pastoral placements in Brisbane archdiocese as well as friends from near and far offered a prayerful presence.
Deacon Ofor, who began formation in Nigeria and, along with Deacons Ekpo and Obi, was appointed to Brisbane archdiocese to complete his studies, said the support of Beaudesert parishioners brought him “great happiness”.
“This is the most significant event of my life,” he said.
“I thank God so much … and even though my family are way back in Nigeria I’m sure they are with me in spirit.
“(And) I thank all my friends from around Australia who have come to support me today.”
Deacon Obi had his family in mind amid the emotion as well as a clear focus of his mission.
“My regards to my parents at home, my rector and my bishop,” he said of homeland supporters.
“It’s amazing to be here and be ordained.
“It’s not by our minds and our strength but by the grace of God that this is happening.
“It’s our life as minsters of Christ to journey with the people of God so that together we can all discover the love of God in our lives.”
Bishop Finnigan spoke of that enduring love in his homily, saying, “‘I will be with you always’ is the promise of Jesus heard in the scriptures.”
He also spoke of the life-long promises the deacons, who will be ordained as priests next year, had offered.
“These deacons have promised to model themselves on the life of Christ – making sure Christ is the foundation of their lives,” Bishop Finnigan said.
“We pray they will be filled with the spirit and have a great sense of mission in their lives … advancing the Kingdom of God and the Church.”
Bishop Finnigan acknowledged the support and guidance of Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary rector Monsignor Tony Randazzo, the “parish priests who have helped with their pastoral placements and the many parishioners who have shared their journey”.
With fellow Nigerian seminarians leading much of the worship during the ordination Mass, the Offertory procession included a vibrant addition of a traditional hymn, with song and dance.
It is called Aeeh Chineke Anyi Dima or Our God is good and spoke of God “doing such wonders”, Deacon Obi said.
He and Deacon Ekpo will continue to study at the seminary in the lead-up to next year’s ordination to the priesthood in Nigeria.
Deacon Obi has begun a short-term placement in Banyo-Nundah parish while Deacon Ekpo is assisting in Clayfield.
Deacon Ofor has resumed his pastoral placement in Beaudesert and will also celebrate ordination to the priesthood in Nigeria next year. All three will return to serve in Brisbane archdiocese following their priestly ordinations.
Deacon Catchlove is in Redcliffe City parish until December 12, after which will continue studies overseas.
He and Deacon Sequeira, who has returned to Southport parish before moving to Beaudesert in January, will celebrate their ordination to the priesthood in Brisbane towards the middle of 2011.
On November 19 Deacon Catchlove’s home parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sunnybank, came together for Mass to celebrate his ordination. He offered the homily at the Mass.
The newly-ordained deacons will attend the priestly ordination of Deacons Bryan Roe and John Echewodo on December 8 in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, as their own joy continues to heighten.